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Tiles from Texaco World’s Fair map on view

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Conservationists have combined their technical efforts with an exhibition exploring the history of the map, the World's Fair and the pop art movement at the Queens Museum of Art. The exhibition lasts from Jan. 27 to May 4."We're in the original New York City Pavilion building, and we're in the World's Fair grounds, so we're very much tied to that legacy," said Krista Saunders, spokesperson for the museum. "We feel invested in the conservation process."The undertaking is also of personal interest to Frank Matero, a professor of design at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the exhibit.Matero grew up in Brooklyn and saw the map firsthand at the World's Fair."I remember the map very much," he said. "The fair was a marvel for any 11-year-old."After getting a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a research team removed 10 of the weathered terrazzo tiles that comprise the map. The tiles, all from Long Island, will be carefully preserved in a laboratory area within the exhibit.The exhibit also includes photographs comparing the map's condition in 1964, the '90s and the present day, as well as a photo mosaic of the map in its current state by artist Anthony Auerbach, who documented the entire surface of the terrazzo map from a height of seven feet. As the photographs and the tiles themselves show, decades of neglect, weather and vandalism have taken their toll."This is in worse condition than many ancient pavings," Matero said. He emphasized the fact that the tiles cannot be restored to their original condition - only spared from further deterioration.Preserving the tiles is a complicated process that involves removing the 600-pound tiles, taking out all the old, rusting iron supports, filling in missing spaces on the face, and replacing the support with a honeycomb matrix.The grant, Matero said, provides for the restoration of the 10 tiles in order to pave the way-forgive the pun-for the rest of the tiles, which the city will have to pay for through fund-raising efforts.Until those funds are available, the rest of the map will be buried under a foot of geofabric and sand to preserve it from further deterioration. Matero said this is a common practice with ancient mosaics.Matero said the map's survival is just as much about protecting the history of the World's Fair as it is about preserving art. The fairs have been discontinued, their massive technological exhibits obsolete in the wake of modern information systems."The way we get information is not that way anymore," he said. "We access the world through the Internet. The World's Fair is an artifact."Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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